Travel Tips

11 things you do in your car – but shouldn’t

11 things you do in your car – but shouldn’t

Driving in your car can feel like a portable home. It’s often so comfortable that sometimes you pick up a few bad habits along the way, such as eating in the car to having sex. Read on to find out what you should not do in your car.

Putting your feet on the dashboard

Whether you’re in the passenger seat or driving your car, your feet should stay off the dashboard. In a 2017 NerdWallet report, 3% of drivers admit to putting their feet on the dashboard or out the window while driving with cruise control. Although this is a relatively small percentage, there is no reason for keeping your feet up – even if you’re sitting shotgun. In 2015, a US couple was in a car accident where the passenger had her feet on the dashboard. She broke both of her legs in several places and urges people not to make the same mistake.


Almost everyone is guilty of eating or drinking behind the wheel at one point or another. Richard Reina, product training director of an aftermarket auto retailer says sipping on a cup of coffee or water is generally fine; just make sure you’re able to grip the wheel and keep your eyes on the road. “However, the more involved a snack or meal gets, the more distracted you might become,” he says. It might be tempting to reach for a fallen French fry, but it’s also incredibly dangerous.

Storing unnecessary items

Some people treat their cars like their home away from home, but it shouldn’t act as a storage unit. Reina says large items in your car could block your visibility, creating dangerous blind spots and limiting your view when reversing. If there’s an emergency or an accident, anything not bolted down could easily move around your car and injure someone if you brake rapidly. Plus, storing items in plain sight can make you a target for theft.

Using headphones

Listening to music during road trips and long commutes isn’t a problem, but using headphones or earbuds isn’t the best way to listen to it while driving. “Headphones decrease your awareness by filtering out other noises more than your car’s speakers,” he says.

Blasting music with the windows down

In addition to annoying other drivers, playing loud music with your windows down in your car serves as another distraction. Much like earphones, driving with loud music distracts drivers from hearing important noises around you, Reina says.

Having sex

Having sex in public – including a parked car – could result in your arrest. Some people have even had sex in their car while driving. According to a study published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, 33% of men and 9% of women in its study participated in some sort of sexual activity while driving, Women’s Health reports.


Smoking health risks are generally well-known. If you do decide to smoke, however, there’s research showing you should avoid doing so in your car. After just half a cigarette burns in a car, the quality of the air can reach levels 10 times over what the US Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous. Plus, smoking in a closed environment like your car increases third-hand smoke exposure. When people sit in a car that someone has smoked in, the nicotine and other pollutants covering the car release into the air and get on your skin and mouth, according to Psychology Today.

Changing clothes

It’s not always illegal to change in your car. However, you could get in trouble for public nudity or indecent exposure depending on where you live, if anyone sees you, and the local laws. It’s better to be safe than sorry and change in an appropriate, private place instead, if possible.

Doing your makeup

Focusing on anything other than driving means you’re distracted and more prone to accidents. “Putting on makeup while driving doubles the reaction time a driver needs to put their foot on the brake,” says Traffic School owner Stephanie Schwartz. Most people also adjust their mirrors to see themselves while they’re putting on their makeup, which means you’re not using your mirror to look at the cars around you. Even if you’re parked, keeping your makeup in your car could actually damage some of your products and make them vulnerable to melting and mould growth.

Driving without shoes on

Many drivers might be guilty of this, according to Reina. It’s not necessarily the least safe thing you can do behind the wheel, but it still isn’t a good idea. “For instance, you might need to brake very hard suddenly and find yourself unable to apply the proper force with a bare or socked foot as you would with a shoe on,” Reina says. “Additionally, if you need to step out of the car in an emergency, you run the risk of injuring your feet or wasting precious time putting shoes back on.”


Road rage, angry outbursts, and arguing in your car can make you vulnerable in more ways than one. According to a 2014 research review from the Harvard School of Public Health, it’s possible angry outbursts both on and off the road can trigger a heart attack or stroke hours later. The psychological stress can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which other research found can have adverse effects up to six years later. Even if you’re having a more mellow conversation with someone in your car, you still put yourself at risk. More than half of distracted driving accidents are because of talking with another passenger, per federal data, the Washington Post reports.

Driving with your seat too far back

Drivers should be in the best possible position to control their car – and people don’t have that same control if they’re too far from the wheel. “Aside from your ability to reach the pedals and react quickly to road events, you may need to control your lights, wipers or other systems at a moment’s notice and have a hard time doing so if you’re seated too far back,” Reina says.

Written by Emily DiNuzzo. This article first appeared on Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.